Best Community Colleges in Colorado

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by Staff Writers

Updated January 19, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
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The Colorado Community College System consists of 13 colleges spread over 35 locations across the state. Community colleges in Colorado enroll about 125,000 students every year and grant about 24,000 career and technical education degrees and certificates on an annual basis.

These colleges also offer associate degrees in in-demand fields like business management and administration, education and training, health science, hospitality and tourism, information technology, manufacturing and construction, and science and engineering.

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Online community colleges in Colorado provide learners with a variety of educational programs that may pave the way to jobs within 24 months of enrollment.

Why Study in Colorado?

Educational Opportunities

The best community colleges in Colorado offer a variety of academic programs that are in line with today's emerging career opportunities, including in-demand roles that current businesses and industries need the most.

The state also offers career and technical education programs that help students identify the path that they want to pursue after high school. These programs are a great way for learners to experience hands-on training through internships, apprenticeships, and job opportunities.

Economy

Colorado continues to be a top state in the areas of ranching, farming, and mining, but its economy has recently excelled in other industries.

Colorado houses one of the largest financial services hubs in the country. It also has broken new ground in the areas of aerospace, biochemistry, clean energy, advanced technology manufacturing, information technology, and software development.

Colorado has also seen a 3.6% growth rate in gross state product from 2014-2019, ranking fifth out of all 50 U.S. states.

Cost of Living

In its 2020 list of the best states to make a living, Money Rates ranked Colorado ninth, citing the state's "affordability and workplace safety." The overall cost of living in Colorado may be 12% higher than the national average, but that is relatively lower when compared to other big states like California (36% above average) and Massachusetts (31%).

Furthermore, Colorado ranks 4.2% below the national average in terms of healthcare expenses, 1.6% lower than the national average in utilities expenses, and just on par with the national average for groceries.

Cultural and Community Offerings

Thanks to year-round, vibrant festivals and celebrations, people living in Colorado enjoy a rich cultural experience. Colorado houses state-of-the-art museums like the Denver Art Museum, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

Colorado's residents also come together to participate in lively festivals like the Aspen Music Festival, the Vail Dance Festival, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and the Winery Tour and Citrus Wine Tasting, among many others.

Climate

Colorado is known as one of the coldest states in the nation, especially during winters. Snowfall typically begins in late October and may continue until April.

Snowfall in Colorado averages 67 inches annually, although mountainous areas with higher elevations often receive more snow than those in lower elevations. Colorado experiences four distinct seasons, with each offering its own set of outdoor activities for the state's residents to enjoy.

Top Degree Programs in Colorado

Colorado Employment Outlook

The unemployment rate in Colorado fell from 6.4% in April 2021 to 5.1% in November 2021. Community colleges in Colorado establish long-term partnerships with more than 100 businesses and companies, producing about 4,000 workforce trainees each year.

Colorado's community colleges work hand-in-hand with the Colorado Office of Economic Development to jointly administer the Colorado First and Existing Industry Customized Job Training Programs. The office invests around $4.5 million annually in workforce initiatives to help students secure jobs right after graduation.

5 Colorado Jobs in Demand

Office and Administrative Support

Colorado Mean Annual Wage (as of May 2020): $44,350

Job Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the office and administrative support industry offers a total of 314,260 jobs in Colorado, as of May 2020. This makes it the highest-demand field in the state. Typical roles in this industry include office clerk, cargo and freight agent, administrative assistant, and proofreader.


Sales

Colorado Mean Annual Wage (as of May 2020): $54,010

Job Outlook: With 268,680 jobs in the Colorado economy, as of May 2020, the sales industry has emerged as one of the fastest-growing fields in the state. You can pursue sales roles in a variety of industries, including counter and rental, retail and non-retail, wholesale and manufacturing, real estate, commodities, technical and scientific products, advertising, and travel.


Food Preparation and Serving

Colorado Mean Annual Wage (as of May 2020): $31,350

Job Outlook: The food industry continues to be a booming business in Colorado, evidenced by its third-best employment total of 215,580, as of May 2020. First-line supervisor of food preparation, assistant to chefs and head cooks, bartender, and private household cook are key roles in this industry that students can pursue after completing an associate degree.


Healthcare Practitioners

Colorado Mean Annual Wage (as of May 2020): $87,730

Job Outlook: With high-demand jobs and a relatively high annual wage, the healthcare industry remains a strong career path for Colorado's students. Learners with associate degrees can apply for entry-level jobs and assisting roles in occupational therapy, nursing and medicine, and dentistry.


Transportation and Material Moving

Colorado Mean Annual Wage (as of May 2020): $43,800

Job Outlook: The transportation industry in Colorado offers nearly 200,000 jobs, as of May 2020. In-demand roles in this industry include aircraft and ship cargo handling supervisor, flight attendant, and industrial transportation worker.


Popular Career Paths in Colorado

Best Accredited Community Colleges in Colorado

How We Rank Schools

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Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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Best Community Colleges in Colorado

  1. Morgan Community College
    Location

    Fort Morgan, CO

    Tuition

    $8685

    Morgan Community College offers associate degrees entirely online or at one of the college's five campuses. Degree-seekers can select from over two dozen AA and AS programs, nearly half of which transfer automatically to Colorado public colleges and universities. This community college in Colorado organizes degrees into six academic fields, including agriculture, skilled trades, and STEM.

    In addition to traditional programs, MCC offers an Alternative Credit Project that allows incoming students who previously dropped out of college to transfer credit. Other unique educational opportunities include the workplace education program, where local Cargill employees can take courses such as math, English, and reading at no cost.

    Prospective students can apply for the spring, fall, or summer semester. MCC allows high school students to participate in concurrent enrollment at a discounted tuition rate. Some incoming degree-seekers may qualify for a foundation or institutional scholarship. All in-state learners qualify for Colorado's Opportunity Fund, which awards an $85 stipend for each credit students attempt.

  2. Aims Community College
    Location

    Greeley, CO

    Tuition

    $7330

    Aims Community College offers numerous academic opportunities including college programs for high school students, workplace development, ESL programs, and evening courses. The college's three dozen academic areas include automotive, health programs, and business technology. The school features associate and certificate programs in a multitude of fields.

    Online learners at this Colorado community college receive one-on-one help from academic advisors. Students take most assessments online but in some cases may need to travel to an authorized testing center. Additionally, online courses use the same semester format as on-campus courses, meaning that distance learners receive an academic experience comparable to that of on-campus students.

    Incoming students take ACCUPLACER assessments to determine initial English and math course placements. Learners with excellent ACT or SAT scores do not take placement tests. Each year, the college awards more than 80 Aims Foundation Scholarships to eligible students. Degree-seekers who earn at least 12 credits at Aims with a minimum 3.0 GPA can apply.

  3. Trinidad State Junior College
    Location

    Trinidad, CO

    Tuition

    $12728

    Trinidad State Junior College offers dozens of academic programs including associate degrees, transfer degrees, and certificates. Unique programs include massage therapy, manufacturing technologies, reflexology, and welding technology. The college also prepares learners for the GED by offering specialized courses on its Trinidad and Valley campuses. These courses take place in the evening so students can continue working full time.

    TSJC offers more than 100 online courses each semester through the Colorado Community College System. Students can choose from traditional 15-week or accelerated 10-week courses. Only the occupational safety and health technology program can be completed entirely online; all other academic programs use a hybrid learning model.

    Prospective degree-seekers at this community college in Colorado can apply for the summer, fall, or spring semester. All applicants submit a scholarship application. Transfer students submit official college transcripts, and incoming learners without ACT or SAT scores take placement tests. New Mexico students pay in-state tuition rates.

  4. Arapahoe Community College
    Location

    Littleton, CO

    Tuition

    $7101

    Arapahoe Community College offers dozens of certificates, AA, and AS programs, including a biology transfer major, business administration - international business and foreign language, and computer information systems - computer support. Online education support services at this community college in Colorado include orientation and career advising.

    Courses feature a 13-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, one of the lowest of all Colorado community colleges. Along with excellent associate programs, ACC offers two bachelor's programs: a bachelor of science in nursing and a bachelor of applied science in emergency service administration. ACC also ranks first for Colorado high school students who take advantage of dual enrollment.

    ACC offers numerous online courses, though no program allows learners to earn a degree entirely online. Prospective students can apply to the Littleton, Parker, or Castle Rock campus. Admission requirements vary for high school graduates, homeschooled students, and undocumented learners. All incoming learners apply for financial aid by submitting FAFSA results. ACC announces institutional scholarships on a rotating basis throughout the year.

  5. Community College of Aurora
    Location

    Aurora, CO

    Tuition

    $7404

    The Community College of Aurora features 13 academic departments such as film school, computer and digital technologies, and public safety. Students can choose from numerous degree and certificate programs including CISCO, fire science, and diesel power mechanics. Online learners access coursework through the Desire2Learn software, which allows them to interact with peers and professors in real time.

    Students at this community college in Colorado receive valuable support, benefiting from a student services center and highly trained advisors that work one-on-one with high school concurrent students and DACA recipients. Learners can also explore internship and career opportunities throughout the state through the school's Career Services Office.

    The CCA Navigate program introduces online and on-campus students to topics such as how to register for courses. All learners also meet with a Pathways Advisor before registering. Transfer credit must reflect a minimum C grade, and CCA awards credit through CLEP and Advanced Placement exams. Students not eligible for financial aid can still set up a tuition payment plan.

  6. Lamar Community College
    Location

    Lamar, CO

    Tuition

    $9711

    Lamar Community College offers easily transferable associate degrees to students throughout Prowers, Baca, Kiowa, and Cheyenne counties. Learners receive access to essential support and instructional strategies to help them succeed academically. They also benefit from trained professors who value respect, open communication, and students' individual needs.

    Learners can earn an associate degree in a specific subject or an associate of general studies; the latter degree prepares students to pursue a major at a four-year school. Associate of applied science degrees prepare learners for a career and include options in equine business management and renewable energy technologies.

    Application requirements for this community college in Colorado include an in-person campus visit, FAFSA results, and placements tests. LCC exempts incoming students with ACT or SAT scores from testing requirements. In-state students may qualify for a Colorado Student Grant or Colorado Merit Scholarship. The latter requires a minimum 2.75 GPA.

  7. Front Range Community College
    Location

    Westminster, CO

    Tuition

    $7582

    Front Range Community College offers numerous start dates throughout the year, giving learners the chance to start an associate degree when convenient for them. With degree options in six areas -- including business and information technology -- students can graduate in just two years. Local high school students can also learn concurrently or explore potential careers with the help of an FRCC advisor.

    FRCC delivers more than 350 online courses each semester. Degree-seekers can choose between FRCC online courses and Colorado Community College online courses, the latter of which are taught by instructors from different schools. All incoming online students complete an orientation that introduces them to Desire2Learn, the school's learning management system, and online studying best practices.

    Like all community colleges in Colorado on this ranking, FRCC accepts the GED. The college also accepts transfer credit and awards credit based on military training and examination. The Colorado Opportunity Fund provides financial aid to active-duty military personnel and veterans.

  8. Northeastern Junior College
    Location

    Sterling, CO

    Tuition

    $11771

    Northeastern Junior College offers a diverse mix of associate degrees and certificate programs in areas such as land management and the sheep industry. Students can learn more about each program's curriculum and associated career paths on NJC's website.

    Online courses at this Colorado community college allow learners to take all assessments at home. However, some online courses may require degree-seekers to participate in field trips or other hands-on experiences. With asynchronous courses, online students can access course content at any time of day. Valuable student support services at this Colorado community college include a Student Success Center that provides academic and career advising services.

    All applicants submit FAFSA results to determine financial aid eligibility. Incoming learners with acceptable SAT or ACT scores do not take placement tests. NJC provides dozens of scholarship opportunities throughout the year, each with its own application deadline.

  9. Otero Junior College
    Location

    La Junta, CO

    Tuition

    $11281

    The academic programs at Otero Junior College include AA and AS degrees as well as career-centered certificate programs. In the associate of general studies program, students can prepare for transfer to a four-year public college or university in Colorado. The school's eight certificate programs include agriculture, cosmetology, and nursing assistant.

    While OJC does not offer any entirely online programs, students can take online courses through the Colorado Community College System. OJC also participates in the TRiO Student Support Services Program to provide free tutoring, counseling, and financial aid services.

    Prospective students can explore OJC's certificates and degrees by viewing informational videos. Like other community colleges, OJC participates in the Alternative Credit Project to give degree-seekers who previously dropped out of college a pathway to apply prior credits toward a degree. Colorado residents with a minimum 2.5 high school GPA may qualify for a merit scholarship.

  10. Pikes Peak Community College
    Location

    Colorado Springs, CO

    Tuition

    $8438

    Pikes Peak Community College boasts more than 190 degree and certificate programs, 11 of which students can complete entirely online. Transferable associate degrees at this Colorado community college include programs in construction management technology, studio art, and criminal justice. Learners earning a certificate in phlebotomy or medical reception and coding can transfer the certificate to a four-year public school in Colorado.

    E-learning students can earn a hybrid degree where they take some courses on one of PPCC's three campuses in Colorado Springs. Like their on-campus equivalents, online courses may require prerequisites or placement testing. All online learners may also complete an extensive introduction to online learning that conveys best practices for online studying.

    Prospective learners meet with an academic advisor before registering for courses. Benefits for military students include a peer mentoring program that involves career exploration and academic tutoring. Students who act as a peer mentor can qualify for up to a $1,000 scholarship.

Frequently Asked Questions About Community Colleges in Colorado

Are community colleges worth it?

Along with affordability, community colleges provide quicker paths toward securing jobs in high-demand industries. These schools offer associate degrees that students can finish within 24 months. This can lead to entry-level jobs in industries like nursing, information technology, business administration, hospitality and tourism, marketing and sales, and education. Aside from two-year associate degrees, most community colleges offer short-term technical and vocational programs that learners can complete fully online or through a mix of in-person and online learning.

Is community college free in Colorado?

Community colleges in Colorado are not free. However, tuition at community colleges typically costs less than tuition at public four-year universities and institutions. The state also offers a variety of pathways for students to finance their education. Students can apply for the College Opportunity Fund or talk to financial aid advisors about the federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the Academic Competitiveness Grant, and the TEACH Grant.

How many community colleges are there in Colorado?

There are 13 community colleges across 35 locations in Colorado. Each institution stays in tune with the history and traditions of the local community, offers a bevy of two-year academic and technical education programs, and can provide a faster route for students to pursue roles in high-demand industries.

Is Denver University a community college?

Denver University, also known as the University of Denver, is not a community college. It is a private research university that was founded in 1864 and maintains a student population of almost 13,000.

What GPA is required for Denver University?

The University of Denver does not require a minimum GPA for first-year applicants; however, the average GPA for accepted students in fall 2021 was 3.78. The university takes a holistic approach to evaluating each applicant. The university prefers students who have completed the following high school coursework: four years of English and 3-4 years of math, social studies, foreign language, and science. The school is test-optional, but it accepts ACT and SAT scores.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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